Photography marketing

Sony unveils a new way to protect images from theft

Sony has a new anti-counterfeiting feature comes to the a7 IV mirrorless camera that adds a cryptographic signature to images, as soon as they are taken, to help prevent duplication or manipulation. It’s designed for corporate clients, so don’t expect your vacation snaps to be digitally signed anytime soon. Still, it’s an interesting idea with a wide variety of potential uses.

Crypto not crypto

Related: Meta launches NFTs on Instagram… and they “glitter”

Unfortunately, with any subject involving cryptographyit is important to clarify that this has nothing to do with cryptocurrencies, NFT or anything else Web3. It involves cryptographically signing images at the point of capture so that their authenticity can be verified (without putting anything on the blockchain).

How it works is that the camera’s processor cryptographically signs the image as it’s taken. Although Sony has not announced any details, it is something that has been talked about since at least the 1990s. The details may vary a bitbut basically a secret code is embedded in the image which will break badly if anything is changed.

So if someone alters, tampers with, or edits the image, whether it’s moving a few pixels or creating a total fake, it will be obvious to anyone who knows how to check. Since this is a cryptographic signature, it will involve complex calculations similar to how passwords and access keys work.

What does Sony’s anti-tampering feature do?

Not all photos need to be verifiably authentic. If it’s just a selfie you took on vacation, does it matter if you put a filter on it? But in some areas, it’s useful to have the authenticity of an image quickly and easily verified.

Sony suggests it’s “particularly applicable for passports and identity verification”, but also says it could be used to combat image manipulation in the media (great preoccupation with photojournalism). Other potential use cases he points to are in medicine, law enforcement, insurance assessment, and construction. These are all areas where it is useful to be able to verify that an image was taken when and where its metadata implies and that it has not been manipulated in any way.

Yasuo Baba, Director of Digital Imaging and European Product Marketing at Sony, said in the press release: “Sony’s mission is to empower business solutions with cutting-edge imaging technology and our integrated digital signature. to the camera is a true game-changer to combat image manipulation and tampering across multiple industries.

When will we see this?

Sony indicates that, for now, the anti-counterfeiting function is limited to the Sony a7 IV although it is potentially extended to other models if warranted.

Signature mode is only available for professional users and they need to request a license from Sony to enable it. Presumably, it is this license that will also allow these customers to configure their servers to automatically verify that an image was taken with a specific camera.

Other than that, we don’t have many details. Still, while so many stories tell of how easy it is to fake photos, it’s nice to see another new method of securing them.